Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Combinations" @ Cafe Bohemia

Cafe Bohemia, interior view.

Cafe Bohemia is one of those places that is greater than the sum of its parts. It multi-tasks as a cafe', gallery, micro-concert venue, movie plein-air theater and more. Diverse talent in a variety of media play and show there. Both exotic, cult types from the national scene as well as the grass-root variety. The group of artists in this show are local and influenced by graffiti art and St. Petersburg art networks and ideology.

The work of familiar names and faces fills the walls here. People like Reid Jenkins, Moy and Melissa Loera, Scott Hillis and Derek Donnelly.

Melissa Loera, "Beady-Eyed Bastard"

Melissa's smiling raccoon surrounded by money bags (note how the bags seem to extend beyond the edges of the frame, implying they go on and on) doesn't look like something out of National Geographic. It is metaphorical, at least in part. It reminds me of the OWS one percent-ers. Melissa had no comment on that, only to say that she leaves the interpretations to each individual viewer.

Work by Melissa Loera.

This intense frontal portrait of a white Fox staring directly back at the viewer has a sense of urgency about it. The Fox is white, suggesting purity and/or spirituality. In the background are two leaf-less spidery trees. She wears a red scarf. It is Winter and it is cold. She finds herself in the cycles of the Seasons and life, like the viewer. I see a kind of existential angst in this image. She is waiting, no, carrying on until Spring.

Works by Moy Loera

Moy Loera's work has a distinctive style to it, a little reminiscent of Takashi Murakami with a gentler, less frenetic style. There's two works represented on the left. The top one is of a man on a moped (Moy rides one) wearing a checkered-flag scarf and looking determined. Behind him streams a starry rainbow.

Work by O'Donnell

Work by O'Donnell
There are two portraits by Derek Donnelly in this show. On the right is one of the boxer Evander Hollyfield. On the left is one of Jack Nicholson. The colors and expressiveness of these portraits are strong. They are not only individuals, but strong types within this culture.

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Left to right: Moy, Melissa and Derek.

Work by Christian Thomas

This fecund Tree by Christian Thomas, brimming with life, fruit, leaves etc. is a cornucopia issuing from a guitar. In it, life begets life, including a shoot that rises so fast and hard that it leaves concentric rings. Note how the fruits fall in the form of musical notation. This is a very detailed and precise pen-and-ink drawing. The closer you get, the more detail there is.

Outside in the courtyard, Reid Jenkins, Scott Hillis and O'Donnell participated in a Live Paint. This was early in the evening. The place filled up about an hour after this picture was taken. Cafe Bohemia has long championed live paint-ins, and has had some of the best in the area.

Work by Bonnie Neal

 Tucked away in a corner was this abstract by Bonnie Neal. Themed around a spiral and lower interlocking rings, with vibrant blues and smaller strips of other colors, this speaks to me of bonding.

Scott Hillis, "Mankind in Retrospect"

This is a double Naturae Mort. A skull-headed buffalo with more arrows in it than most depictions of St. Sebastian stares at a human skull. This surreal post-apocalyptic scenario takes place in a wasteland. All is not lost: A flower grows out of the human skull. Nature will survive us.

Scott Hillis, "Elephant in Teknicolor"

"Elephant in Teknicolor" by Scott Hillis is a beautifully and skillfully rendered drawing. The head of an elephant looking almost like a mount, on a brightly colored, somewhat chaotic background. Its ears are in 'charge' mode, but it's not charging. Feels like Nature waiting, warning us to come to our senses, or even pitying us for failing to do so.

Reid Jenkins, "Boombox & Robot

"Boombox & Robot" by Reid Jenkins, a small work with a larger figure carrying the boombox, and a smaller one listening while plugged into the other figure. A comment on media and communications.

Work by Reid Jenkins

Reid has a style a somewhat eclectic yet distinctive style with curious traces of African and Jamaican overtones as in the work on the right. He told me he was too busy to do much art until recently, and has been getting back into the groove.

Work by Reid Jenkins

This is what Reid was working on during the Live Paint event. The lion looks like it may be Ethiopian to me. I have yet to see the finished work.

Congratulations to all the artists, and to Matt and Bonnie Neal for a good show. Cafe Bohemia, one of Art Taco's favorite hangouts, is at 937 Central Avenue in St. Pete. Their home-made coffees (extraordinary cafe con leche), baked goods, sandwiches, hummus and particularly the falafels are nothing short of spectacular. Reasonable prices, too. Monday through Saturday, open till midnight.

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